Steam Craft – The Steampunk tabletop RPG Review
Steampunk culture has been around for awhile, but recently it has been given more light and credit. I see it pop up more often then I had ever anticipated, The idea behind steampunk is that instead of advancing as much as we did with electricity and other things, we instead continued with steam-based industry, often this is set in a 19th victorian era or a wild west type situation. There are many situations that Steampunk can be found, often related to “post-apocalyptic” type stuff, but if you want to know more I suppose you can find it in google! For now, let’s move on with the review.
SteamCraft was sent to me and I was extremely excited to get it, the book is a sturdy hardback that’s like holding a book similar to the DnD or Pathfinder books, the cover is beautiful and I especially like the touch with the man falling to the ground out of his airship. I started reading this and I admit at first I skimmed a bit of the history and descriptions of certain areas, excited to get into the meat (later on went and read the beginning.)
First impressions kind of took me back, almost every idea or concept described was followed the the words “limited” or felt rather confined. Magic is said to be only for 1% of the population, though later on it describes a lot of magic and makes it feel like its impossible for only 1% of the population to have access if it seems so common, in things such as healers, magic being weapons, etc. Character creation seems unnecessarily complicated, each race starts out with a base “set” of attributes that change from each race, and then after that each race gets an a number they can then allot to each attribute (strength, perception, presence, will, agility, fortitude, knowledge). This number also varies from race, then each race has a “max cap” for first level, which also seems a bit weird as each of those numbers change per attribute and per race.
Example: A Scath starts out with
Again these numbers change depending on race, after that you get 110 attribute points to allocate or spend on those attribute, but they all have a cap which (in order of above) are; 60, 70, 80, 65, 60, 60, 60. This changes based on race.
Though I understand a ‘cap’ at first level to stop you from spending 100 points all into Agility and run faster then the sound of speed, I think that the system is a bit overly-done.
Something I enjoy a lot is the “Edges, Flaws, and Contacts.” Edges and Flaws are your advantages and disadvantages, I’ve always felt that adding disadvantages really brings a great flavor to characters, we aren’t good at everything! I also don’t commonly see anyone talk about “Contacts” in other games, this made me extremely excited. Contacts are NPCs that provide help or support in game, this makes a lot of sense to me. When you make a character commonly it’s not a newborn going through life, you already are a bit aged and it doesn’t make sense that you know absolutely no one, now DMs may change this but it is not often talked about inside actual books, the fact that it’s here makes me really excited and I hope others take the hint and implement it as an actual part of the system.
There is a section called “Racism and Sexism” which starts off talking about how racism and sexism is not integrated into the main part of any race (I.e. Dwarves don’t have a natural distaste for any race.) Though it is different, it seems a bit dull and takes out a bit of conflict, though the vast and diverse religions do bring in a large amount of the conflict as the religions and/or groups are strong in their views.
They have a section speaking about “Sexism” not being apart of of the world, that men and women are equal in all parts, then go on to describe what women “typically” do as being part of their “most common” duties, which can seem a bit of a step back from their first paragraph. Regardless, it seems to have been rather politically correct. More bloodshed, I say!
Mixing Magic and Technology is one of those things that is frowned upon, mostly because it is not very successful. When it is, the technology usually takes on a new form and goes on a killing-spree. This is a really interesting concept that can be likened to AI going off its rocker, and the Technomancers are more confined to the “Badlands” in secrecy, which really gives a lot of ideas and rich text on these areas.
Abilities are well thought out, though Melee and Ranged weapons are “Skills” you have to choose. Though I can see ranged weapons, I think anyone can pick up a sword and swing it (though it may not yield them amazing results), I suppose this however is rather realistic.
They have a lot of really unique skills that I find fascinating, they have jury-rig which is fairly self explanatory and “foretelling”, which deals with fortune telling, prophecy, astrology etc. And of course things like streetwise, survivalism, stealth, etc.
Each person is also assigned whats called an AIN, this is a number that is like a cross between your ID/Drivers license number and your Social Security number, people who don’t have this can’t own land or get legitimate jobs very well, which also ads a really unique and interesting potential story twists for your game.
The monetary system is much like our own only using metal based currency, but each country has its own system and exchange rates.
Mana is calculated similar to think of a video game, your Will dictates how much mana you have, i.e. if you have 60 Will, then you have 60 Mana in your Mana Pool, now this is affected by your Arcanum skill, but I won’t get into that.
The weapons, armor, etc. are really very cool, my favorite is probably the “Corset, reinforced.” Sign me up for one of those! Despite the fact that “Black powder” isn’t fully developed they have a list of firearms and ammunition.
They are rather detailed getting into even the “entertainment” business, adding a lot of potential Roleplaying elements to the game. I think this is great, it adds the sense of a living, breathing world rather than “Here’s an airship and a gun, go kill crap.” Things like religion, areas, even population is extremely in depth, they could probably add another book with how many great ideas they have in here but they somehow manage to get all of that information in one book, I can only imagine what else is spinning around in the authors head. I feel extremely inspired when reading their descriptions about lands or culture, society etc.
The Archetypes, which really are a list of character-types and suggestions for abilities etc., is probably one of my favorite parts. Everything from Archeologists to down right dirty pirates, Clerics, and more. Even gamblers have a place here, there are a ton of great character ideas riddled in this section, though it is not necessary to choose one of these it is a really great addition.
The system seems to run off of the percentile system more than the d20 system, which honestly I find to be a better system. I can not deny my love for the d20 system, and my hatred for “Dice pools”, but the percentile (or d100) is an extremely wonderful system and they’ve done a great job implementing it.
Of course they have things such as Augmentations, replacements, inventions, ship details, spells and more. The art is riddled with artwork, some decent, but much of it amazing. It’s really great to read and go through, and the concepts are extremely diverse and in depth. I think they’ve taken a lot of different concepts and mashed them together under Steampunk, and this isn’t a bad thing. It feels a bit fantasy, a bit cyberpunk, and a whole lot of Steam.
Another point I could go on all day about is their in depth Alchemy, they have many concepts from Alchemy, Elementalism, Necromancy, Theurgy, etc. but I really think they took Alchemy to the next level being one of my favorite skills to experiment with.
All in all I would say it is an extremely great start, I can’t really justify putting a number to it as it has both its pros and it’s cons, and I struggle with pinning it down. To Summarize some things I believe were made too complicated, and some other things are rather unique and extremely well implemented. It’s easy enough to get past the complicated parts, but if it were up to me I’d tone some of it down so that gameplay doesn’t feel too muddled up with rules. To check it out, see it here.